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Lambeth 2022: First tree in Anglican forest planted in Archbishop’s garden

03 August 2022

Andrew Baker/Lambeth Conference

Bishops, spouses, and invited guests pray over the first tree in the Anglican Communion Forest, planted in Lambeth Palace Garden on the Conference’s environment action day

Bishops, spouses, and invited guests pray over the first tree in the Anglican Communion Forest, planted in Lambeth Palace Garden on the Conference’s e...

BISHOPS travelled from Canterbury to London on Wednesday for the launch of a new environmental initiative, the Anglican Communion Forest.

A tree was planted in the garden of Lambeth Palace, in the first act of what, it is hoped, will become a global movement of reforestation and habitat renewal.

Richard Washbrooke/Lambeth ConferenceA volunteer places prayer leaves from the Communion’s bishops on a prayer tree in Lambeth Palace garden on Wednesday

Bishops are being encouraged to launch initiatives in their dioceses which help to preserve and regenerate the ecosystem; this need not necessarily be tree-planting, the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, said, at a press conference on Wednesday morning, but could include restoring grasslands, or taking action to prevent the destruction of the rainforest.

The Archbishop of Canterbury said that there was “no doubt about the urgency, severity, and scale of the climate emergency”, and that it was “most especially an emergency for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable”.

“We are not just doing symbolic actions,” he insisted. He said that the structure of the Anglican Communion made it possible to “reach to the very heart, the very ground level of what is happening”.

The Archbishop of Central America, the Most Revd Julio Murray, who led the Anglican Communion’s delegation to COP26 (News, 12 November 2021), said that “time is of the essence” when it came to the climate crisis.

“This is not a peripheral issue: it is a life-threatening issue,” he said. The Lambeth Call on the environment would “help us to put some faces to the numbers” on climate breakdown.

Elizabeth Wathuti, a Kenyan climate campaigner and founder of the Green Generation Initiative, was also on the panel at the press conference. “I am living on the front lines of the climate crisis,” she said, and called on faith leaders around the world to press for disinvestment from fossil fuels.

“We have to keep reminding people that we have that courage and that capacity to demand world leaders do what they can,” she said. “From the part of the world that I come from, faith leaders have a seat at the table,” and this gave them a “huge role” in being able to put pressure on political leaders.

“Faith leaders can also help local people to understand what is at stake, and that climate and environment issues are interrelated with so many other issues,” she continued.

Archbishop Murray agreed, and said that faith leaders could become “influencers” in pressing the case for climate action.

In the UK context, Archbishop Welby called for a reversal of the cuts to international development, to help to enable poorer countries to develop the technology for sustainable energy production.

He called specifically on the two candidates in the Conservative Party leadership election, one of whom will be the next Prime Minister, to pledge the return of the international-development budget to 0.7 per cent of GDP.

Richard Washbrooke/Lambeth ConferenceThe Archbishop of Central America and Bishop of Panama, the Most Revd Julio Murray, speaks during the symbolic tree planting ceremony during the environment day in Lambeth Palace garden on Wednesday

Archbishop Welby said that the Church of England was disinvesting from companies that were not rapidly transitioning to net zero. He called on energy firms to “go from being held in suspicion . . . to being heroes”.

They had the “logic skills, the technological skills, the imagination, and the financial capital to change the world”, he said.

Activists from Christian Climate Action, an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion, were demonstrating outside the entrance to Lambeth Palace, and talking to bishops as they entered. One activist described the response from the bishops as “fantastic”.

Over lunch in a marquee erected in the garden, bishops heard messages from the secretary-general of the UN, António Guterres, and the Queen, together with addresses from Archbishops Murray and Welby.

“Your inspiring teams, summoning us to walk, listen, and witness together, offers a blueprint for progress,” Mr Guterres said.

In a formal message, read out by the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, the Queen offered her encouragement to the Lambeth Conference.

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